A toast to D.C.

TRAVEL SMARTS

February 10, 2002

While swishing and spitting (instead of savoring and swallowing) may sound like a crime against good wine, it's the only way to go at the third annual Washington, D.C., International Wine Festival -- if you want to stay upright, that is.

The event, which takes place March 2-3, draws representatives from more than 220 wineries in 12 countries -- all of whom will be pouring a combined total of more than 1,800 wines for tasting.

Designated drivers aren't left out in the cold, though. Fine Cooking magazine presents a celebrity-chef stage where gourmets demonstrate their skills (and you reap the rewards in samples and take-home recipes), and wine seminars run both days. Sunday's events include a wine brunch.

Tastings run Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Reagan Building / International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Tickets are $48 for a single day if purchased before Feb. 22 and $59 if purchased later; two-day passes are $69 and $80 respectively. Seminars begin at 11:30 a.m. and range from $25 to $40. Brunch is $69. (A combination brunch-tasting ticket may be purchased for $107.) For information, see www.wine-expos.com or call 800-343-1174. -- Tricia Bishop

FROM MICE TO MEN: EXPLORING GENETICS

Green-eyed frogs, cloned mice, mutant flies and baby chicks -- no, they're not part of a freak-show zoo, they're key components in understanding the study of genes, and they're on display in the new "Genetics: Decoding Life" permanent exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, along with Abraham Lincoln's hair and a virtual human embryo.

The animals illustrate how gene study between species helps scientists learn, but, if that bothers you, you're welcome to register your opinion at a voting area that encourages discussion of some of the ethical implications of genetic modification and cloning.

Other sections of the exhibit include an iris "garden," where you can compare your eye's iris to another's; a chick hatchery where you can watch them hatch or see their development through the eggshell; and a place where you can play geneticist and watch a virtual human embryo respond to sequences of genes you activate.

The Museum of Science and Industry, at 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays between Labor Day and Memorial Day and 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekends and weekdays throughout the rest of the year. Admission ranges from $4.25 to $9. For more information, call 800-468-6674 or go to www.msichicago.org.

-- T.B.

Surfing on the tracks

Internet site Yahoo! and Amtrak have joined forces to create the country's first Internet-enabled trains. Last month, three trains equipped with handheld computers, wireless modems and Web access began offering free surfing to passengers on the Acela train in the Northeast (which serves the Washington / Boston corridor), the Capitol in Northern California and the Hiawatha in the Midwest.

Amtrak plans to offer the service free through April, when a decision will be made on whether to continue. For information, go to www.amtrak.com or call 800-872-7245. -- T.B.

Book, bed & breakfast

Pick up a copy of Bed & Breakfast and Country Inns and you'll get more than a book: You'll get a free night at any of more than 1,400 inns, including the fairy-tale-like Castle Inn Riverside (at right) in Wichita, Kan. The 13th edition of the book, developed by B&B guidebook publisher American Historic Inns, is full of maps, directories, profiles and listings -- but more importantly, it comes with a certificate good for one free night when you stay at least two nights at any of the featured properties. To order the book ($21.95), call 800-397-4667 or go to www.iloveinns. com. -- T.B.

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